Reviews of EP releases.

Bottlenecker EP – Cassino

Seven years since the release of their second studio album Kingprince, Alabama-based indie-folk band Cassino present their latest EP release Bottlenecker. Having explored elements of folk on their previous albums, Bottlenecker shows Cassino further pushing the genre, whilst now incorporating more elements of indie-rock. Although a short experience, this latest release offers a very enjoyable selection of folk-rock music, showing that the band have not lost that enjoyable spark that makes their music, as well as having evolved just that little bit from their earlier releases.

Bottlenecker is often a quintesential folk-rock experience, with Cassino simply presenting a very enjoyable album. The album’s more rockier elements showcase some new creative ideas from the band, giving the music a little bit more edge that elevates it to a position a little higher than its predecessors. Whilst other tracks seem to follow on much of the same format as on Kingprince or Sounds of Salvation, it seems the years have grown on the band, with it all sounding much stronger than it ever did before. It is arguable that the bare elements of the songs on the album are a little basic, with there not really being any particular element that truly makes it all stand out. What makes Bottlenecker work though is its simplistic honesty. The presentation of each track, as well as all their base elements, simply sound exactly right for what it is all trying to be, making it a highly enjoyable album.

It’s certainly nice to see Cassino getting back into the swing of things, and as evidenced on Bottlenecker, in great form too. There is simply something incredibly delightful about Cassino’s music, in terms of how it all sounds and is presented by the band. Bottlenecker comes across as a lovely and sweet folk-rock experience, with a little bit more bite on certain occasions. Fans of the band’s previous output shouldn’t be too worried about the slightly more rockier edge to the music, as it all still sounds quintessentially Cassino at the end of the day. One hope this is the start of something big for the band, and that this suggests more to come in the future.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆  4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Bodygetta
  • Rose of Lee
  • Alabama Song
  • Acrobat

Cassino’s latest album ‘Bottlenecker’ is out now.

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Cheetah EP – Aphex Twin

Since the surprise upload and subsequent take down of hundreds of tracks to Soundcloud, the fate of Richard D. James’ music has been in question. It seems though that Richard D. James has opted to instead refine some of these tracks into more cohesive forms, one such release being the new ‘Cheetah‘ EP, released under the moniker of Aphex Twin. This latest EP offers various versions and mixes of the CHEETAH track, as well as a couple of versions of CIRKLON which originally appeared on ‘Syro‘ in 2014 (although in true Richard D. James form, barely recognisable from their counterparts and each other).

There’s an almost hypnotic and entrancing element to ‘Cheetah‘, which slowly pulses along, dragging the listener into the enigmatic world that only James can create. Anchored mostly by two versions of CHEETAH and two versions of CIRKLON (divided by two brief interludes of CHEETAH), we see James reinterpreting his own work in a variety of different ways, drawing out different concepts and ideas through its presentation. It’s perhaps less urgent and intimidating than some of his other releases, showing more restraint in his approach, though an underlying notion of tension and worry seems to anchor much of the EP together. Those perhaps looking for continuations of some of James’ much earlier works will not find much on ‘Cheetah‘, but those who enjoy simply seeing whatever the hell it is that James’ can conjure up next, as well as just how different his various mixes of his own tracks sound, will find the EP to no doubt be an interesting and intriguing release, and one that perhaps stands comfortably alongside his already varied discography.

It’s in ‘Cheetah’s more reserved tones that we find the main strengths of the EP release itself. It’s seems to be more of an improvement on both ‘Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt2′ and ‘Orphaned Deejay Selek 2006-08’ released under the moniker of AFX, which both showed a more experimental side to James’ music, but seemed less cohesive and structured. On ‘Cheetah‘, there is a much more comfortable flow, even with the brief interlude of two slightly more experimental tracks. Once again, we’re shown more of James’ incredibly vast sonic palette, with each new release being delightfully unpredictable.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆ 4/5

Selected Songs:

  • CHEETAH2 [Ld Spectrum]
  • CIRKLON3 [Колхозная mix ]

Aphex Twin’s latest EP ‘Cheetah’ is out now.

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Never Had A Dream – Hunck

First posted on echoesanddust.com.

If you happened to go see The Polyphonic Spree perform their debut album ‘The Beginning Stages…’ in its entirety last year in London, and you’re the kind of person who gets early to things just to get to the front, then you most likely saw support act Hunck perform. Now, go back further. Did you happen to see Polyphonic Spree in London sometime in June 2014? First support band was The Plastic Dots, the now old-band of lead singer Frederick Tyson-Brown. Very exciting, but what does it mean?

It probably means Tyson-Brown got bored of performing noisy shoegaze and instead evolved his sound to include a more synth-pop element, thus forming the new band Hunck. The band have released their debut EP ‘Never Had A Dream’, featuring all the wonderful hits that we all know so very damn well, or at least those of us with half a memory from those few gigs we can actually remember.

Lucky for fans of the group, the songs heard live at these gigs have been recreated pretty much note for note for their first EP, so if you’re one of the people straining to remember what it all sounded like, just boot up EP and send yourself off down memory lane. Perhaps though, you’d rather not, for Hunck certainly know how to shape everything nicely, from their instrumentals to their vocals in order to create an accessible shoegaze sound, but damn if there is anything actually interesting going on here. There’s a lack of that great spark that makes us want to connect to the music.

Hunck definitely have tried to do something for their debut EP, but they have failed to actually produce something of true interest. It’s not unpleasant; it just passes by without impinging noticeably on your attention. Most likely fans of The Polyphonic Spree will see Hunck again if they make their rounds back to London. Could be worse I guess.

Album Rating:

  • ★★☆☆☆  2/5

Selected Songs:

  • Never Had A Dream

Hunck’s debut EP ‘Never Had A Dream’ is out now.

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Ritual Spirit – Massive Attack

English trip-hop act Massive Attack seem to have faded themselves away in recent years, turning to activism and various promises of reunions and releases. Finally following up on those promises, Massive Attack have released their first EP in roughly five years, the stunning ‘Ritual Spirit’. The new EP comprises four tracks with each featuring a different guest appearance, including the long anticipated reunion with trip-hop artist Tricky. At 17 minutes, ‘Ritual Spirit’ is an EP-experience that passes by far too quickly, but is also one that firmly ingrains itself into one’s head with each listen.

Massive Attack’s latest EP release seems to have instantly reminded us all of the sheer power and grandiosity of their particular branch of trip-hop music. ‘Ritual Spirit’ slowly pushes along, using stronger elements of traditional hip-hop music to brilliant effect. At times, it feels sinister and macabre, creating images of dark London high streets and underground passages (perfectly expressed in the music video for ‘Voodoo In My Blood’). This is one of those few releases that manages to utilize guest appearances, with each collaborator cementing their position on the release by extenuating the particular tracks they appear on, rather than simply being an extra name for the credits. It’s arguable that ‘Ritual Spirit’ isn’t as chilled out as some of Massive Attack’s earliest releases, but it is one that’s hard to ignore the power of. There’s something almost hypnotic about what’s being presented here, suggesting a great new movement for the act to delve into on future releases.

This might be the sign of great things to come, or it might just be the result of years of trying and trying. At the very least, there’s a lot to be excited about for what ‘Ritual Spirit’ offers us, regardless of what is yet to come, if anything. Each track on the EP offers something a little new, and perhaps a little familiar from Massive Attack, all coming across as some of their absolute best tracks in their whole discography. This is a release one might find themselves constantly returning too, allowing oneself to delve deep into that head-space only Massive Attack’s music can provide.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★★ 5/5

Selected Songs:

  • Dead Editors feat. Roots Manuva
  • Ritual Spirit feat. Azekel
  • Voodoo In My Blood feat. Young Fathers
  • Take It There feat. Tricky

Massive Attack’s latest release ‘Ritual Spirit EP’ is out now.

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Noyaux – Benoît Pioulard

First posted on echoesanddust.com.

Musician and composer Thomas Meluch, better known under his moniker of Benoît Pioulard, has certainly been busying himself this year. With the release of his latest studio album ‘Sonnet’ on the Kranky Record label, and the two companion releases of ‘Stanza’ and ‘Stanza II’, Meluch now offers his latest EP release of ‘Noyaux’. The new EP continues Meluch’s ambient projects, offering four new droning compositions. Those who enjoy and are familiar with the work of Meluch, especially his most recent releases, will most likely find ‘Noyaux’ to be another enjoyable and strong release, once again showcasing the musicians talents as an ambient composer in a great light.

‘Noyaux’ comes across as an interesting ambient release, and one that perhaps has more strengths than the previous releases of ‘Stanza’ and ‘Stanza II’. On this latest release, Meluch bookends the EP with two long droning compositions, lasting 9 and 8 minutes respectively. This sandwiches together two shorter compositions, that have less time to make themselves known, but do so with effortless ease. All in all it’s another beautiful and dreamy release, and one that lovers of ambient drone will find delightful and easily accessible. Although ‘Noyaux’ is less daring and experimental than Meluch’s album release of ‘Sonnet’, and is perhaps a release that doesn’t showcase the absolute greatest limits of Meluch’s abilities, it does offer a simple and enjoyable ambient experience.

‘Noyaux’ is perhaps less ambitious than some of Meluch’s earlier works, though it achieves what it ultimately sets out to do. The droning qualities of the opening track slowly lull us into the album experience, washing over us through two shorter tracks and then slowly escaping away on the final track, leaving us with a sense of calm and perhaps refreshment. It’s easy music to get lost into, as well as perhaps rewarding those who are more attentive to each and every detail in each of the songs. It seems that Meluch is continuing to push out releases at an incredible rate this year, and one wonders what will be coming out next.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆ 4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Noyaux
  • Remind

Benoît Pioulard’s latest album ‘Noyaux’ is out now.

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Stolen Flowers Of The Dead – Stolen Flowers Of The Dead EP

This little experimental EP release titled ‘Stolen Flowers Of The Dead’ offers up a slightly more experimental ambient experience. At 9 minutes, the release is incredibly short though it offers insight into some of the creative visions being presented by the creator. Ambient swirls and drones are accompanied by snippets of varying other instruments, many of which have been manipulated and re-designed through editing, resulting in an interesting and rather intimate release. In just shy of ten minutes, Stolen Flowers of the Dead presents a great amount of creativity, showcasing some wonderful ideas without ever over-doing anything.

‘Stolen Flowers Of The Dead’ offers up the groundwork for an interesting ambient project. Various instruments and techniques have all been utilized in the creation of something personal to the artist. Although a little rough around the edges, there’s something that draws the listener in on this EP release, inviting them into a somewhat darker yet somehow still comforting world. Though certain elements in terms of the production of this EP somewhat falter from time to time, suggesting that the EP could benefit from more care and attention to certain post-production elements, though the EP demonstrates some very nice ideas that would be interesting to see developed in the future.

It’s unsure of whether or not the Stolen Flowers of the Dead project ends here with the release of its first EP, or whether it may continue in the future, though one certainly hopes so after hearing this debut release. Although imperfect, there’s some wonderful notions being presented here, and the personal nature of the music itself gives it an element of real sincerity that’s somewhat hard to find these days. Yes, it is incredibly short, though it serves as a perfect introduction to something very interesting.

 Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆ 4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Vandalising Abandoned Chalet, 2006
  • Loneliness Contextualised By Schufftan Process
  • Cemetery Shortcut

Stolen Flowers Of The Dead’s debut EP ‘Stolen Flowers Of The Dead EP’ is out now and is available from:  Stolen Flowers of the Dead

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Lise G. – Alexandre St-Onge

Experimental artist Alexandre St-Onge presents his latest release on Oral Records titled ‘Lise G.’ The new release features St-Onge’s soundtrack for the art exhibition of the same name. On this release, St-Onge pushes out his trademark experimental style to great effect, offering another unusual, bizarre and oddly engrossing sound experience full of incredibly weird concepts and ideas. As with many of St-Onge’s releases, there’s a very inaccessible element running throughout the album, making it a difficult listen, but to those who find the world of St-Onge so engrossing will find ‘Lise G.’ to be another wonderful insight into a weird and unusual world that only St-Onge knows.

‘Lise G.’ comes across as quite radical in terms of its experimental notions. An electronic ambient notion runs throughout the album, setting the scene for an unsettling world. Much of the actual music feels incredibly sparse, with a main driving force being a bizarre vocal track that sounds perhaps like St-Onge choking himself, forcing his voice into weird and unusual shapes  that paints the picture of something that only St-Onge understands. It’s by no means an accessible release, coming across as too weird an exercise to exist and perhaps one of St-Onge’s most challenging releases to date, though its in St-Onge’s approach to the whole notion of production and creation where we find the oddly appealing element.

‘Lise G.’ is hardly a record that will astound and amaze people, though it will perhaps place listeners into a world of interpretation, where the sounds being conjured up place each and every listener into their own head-space, drawing the gap between the consumer and St-Onge himself. It’s perhaps arguable that this isn’t one of St-One’s most impressive releases in his extensive career, though it oddly enough seems to be one that really sticks around in the memory, constantly tempting those daring enough to give it another listen and see what new things they will discover.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆ 4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Lise G.

Alexandre St-Onge’s latest release ‘Lise G.’ is out now on Oral Records.

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The Devil Is People – Bonnie Stillwater

First posted on echoesanddust.com.

Across an incredibly extensive career, musician and song-writer Will Oldham has offered up an incredibly array of releases under the moniker of Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, weaving together mystical elements pulled out of some belly of some mystical and ethereal beast. Oldham’s latest release sees himself teaming up with experimental rock group Watter, and Stillwater Artisanal (A brewery/art company based in Baltimore), all released under the new name of Bonnie Stillwater. The new collaborative release features the incredible title track, as well as a remix from Ex-Tortoise member Bundy K. Brown, whose contribution to the release feels every bit as relevant and important as the title track itself.

‘The Devil Is People’ showcases once again Oldham’s fantastic ability to weave together musical elements and lyrics, backed up by phenomenal contributions by Watter who cement their importance on the recording with effortless ease. Whilst Oldham himself is at the forefront of the tracks, singing of mysterious forces with an almost ethereal yet accessible quality, the collaborative efforts themselves between Oldham and Watter result in a record where every element and technique is as important as each other, showcasing a fine combination of talents and ideas between the respective artists themselves, including Brown’s remix which acts almost like a secondary chapter to the journey as opposed to a simple reinterpretation.

Oldham and Watter’s collaborative release showcases an incredible passion in the creation of music, one where all those involved understand and buy into the concept being presented. Although the musical elements sometimes border the inaccessible, mostly in the incredibly dark and unsettling tone of the music itself, it still comes across as an incredibly vital and important musical release, and one that highlights the respective talents of the artists at some of their best. Although there’s only two tracks being released at this time, there’s enough here to understand the underlying concepts of what is being created, as well as its importance.

Oldham & Watter’s new collaborative effort comes across as one of the most interesting and engrossing releases from Oldham in recent years. ‘The Devil Is People’ doesn’t overshadow any previous effort from any of the musicians, but instead elevates itself as a strong release all on its own merits, joining alongside the many strong prior releases with comfortable ease. Each and every element injected into the tracks seem to just work, offering up a very dark and almost harrowing musical experience that compliments those involved. It’s a very short listening experience at just roughly ten minutes, but it’s all you really need.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆ 4/5

Selected Songs:

  • The Devil Is People
  • The Devil Is People (The Cheech Wizard’s Hemiolic Chantey at the Edge of the Anthropocene Epoch)

Bonnie Stillwater’s latest release ‘The Devil Is People’ is out now.

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Inattendu – Fanny Alexandre

Inattendu cover art

Experimental artist Alexandre St-Onge teams up with his partner Fanny for their collaborative effort ‘Innatendu’, released under the title of Fanny Alexandre. The new release offers up an eclectic mix of experimental notions and ideas, many of which have been explored on previously through other collaborations on previous releases by Alexandre St-Onge. ‘Inattendu’ arguably sees Fanny taking the foreground, offering up ghostly ethereal vocals, accompanied by electronic ambient notions. Those who enjoyed previous Alexandre St-Onge releases such as 2007’s ‘Mon Animal Est Possible’ will find a fair amount to enjoy on ‘Inattendu’, which seems to deploy similar concepts and ideas of experimentation.

There’s a sparse element to ‘Inattendu’, which seems to deploy the briefest of instrumental passages to accompany Fanny’s vocal style. Everything results in a ghostly sounding musical experience, one that feels much more unsettling and sinister than some of St-Onge’s previous releases, though is equally as enjoyable. Many of the elements and techniques used on the EP feel rather held back for the most part, never pouring out into loud moments but instead remaining quiet and intimate, allowing for the music to speak for itself. The sparse elements of the album might disappoint some listeners, who might expect more layers of musical techniques in the music itself, though those open to what both artists are trying to express will more than likely find ‘Inattendu’ and enjoyable listening experience.

There’s very subtle elements to ‘Inattendu’, which comes across as another ethereal and ghostly album experience. At times the album suffers from repetitive qualities between each track, though this also works in favor of the album, tie-ing together each track to present an overall thematic theme.  ‘Inattendu’ is perhaps not St-Onge’s or Fanny’s most ambitious work the two artists have attempted, though there’s still much to enjoy, especially to fans of St-Onge’s very unusual and experimental style.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★★☆  4/5

Selected Songs:

  • Tranche
  • Inattendu
  • Terrifiance
  • Genou

Fanny Alexandre’s latest album ‘Innatendu’ is out now.

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Sketch For Winter II: Rue Corridor – Pan•American

Former Labradford musician Mark Nelson, working under the moniker of Pan•American, offers up a new EP release ‘Sketch For Winter II: Rue Corridor’. The new release continues a string of release from Geographic North, the Sketch For Winter series. Nelson’s latest release sees the musician straying away from the ambient/post-rock elements of his previous releases, in favor of techno and minimal dub formats. The new techniques expand upon Nelson’s previous releases, showing more sides to his musical talents. There’s some interesting elements to ‘Sketch For Winter II: Rue Corridor’, though there seems to be less warmth and comfort than on previous releases.

Nelson’s latest releases feels like a more radical step up from his previous albums, many of which explored ambient notions, with elements of gentle post-rock thrown into the mix. ‘Sketch For Winter II: Rue Corridor’ seems to abandon much of these subtleties. There’s some enjoyable elements to the music, most of which see the musician employing the same level of patience and care as explored on his previous releases. Much of the release offers up a cold ideal, which works well for the release, giving it good context. Although it’s interesting seeing Nelson explore different areas of music, it is perhaps a shame that there’s less of the warm techniques used on previous releases, which results in ‘Sketch For Winter II: Rue Corridor’ coming across as a more inaccessible and arguably less enjoyable release from the musician.

Even though the release doesn’t come across as Nelson’s best release under the Pan•American moniker, there is still many enjoyable elements. Those open to Nelson’s experimentation will find ‘Sketch For Winter II: Rue Corridor’ to actually be one of the musicians most interesting releases thus far, and one that showcases more talents and more ideas that we may not have been able to see before. Those expecting another ambient driven album, similar to some of Nelson’s releases on Kranky, will find ‘Sketch For Winter II: Rue Corridor’ to be a disappointing release, though those willing to accept new ideas and new methods will find much to enjoy on this new release.

Album Rating:

  • ★★★☆☆  3/5

Selected Songs:

  • The Terrace
  • Pascal

Pan•American’s latest release ‘Sketch For Winter II: Rue Corridor’ is out now and available on cassette through Geographic North.

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